Nearly a century ago, poet and playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote, “I will be the gladdest thing under the sun! I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.” Although development has overtaken swaths of the wild hillsides and meadows of Sonoma County, the whisper of Spring is already offering a display of wild blossoms that make self-restraint almost impossible. Our unusually rainy winter holds the promise of a superbloom spectacle, and here are the best places in Sonoma County to walk amongst the orange poppies, purple lupines, snowy milkmaids – and be glad under the sun!

Bouverie Preserve (Glen Ellen): This magnificent 535-acre preserve, filled with gentle oak woodlands, is famous for its wildflower displays (many of them rare). Bouverie is usually closed to the public, but offers guided nature walks, by reservation only, on selected springtime Saturdays.

Van Hoosear Wildflower Walk: Free wildflower walk offered through Sonoma Ecology Center. Those wishing to take part are encouraged to register as soon as they can by clicking here. (By the way, there are several other wildflower walks starting in early April through the Ecology Center – check out their calendar page for all listings).

Sonoma Valley Regional Park (Glen Ellen): In March and April, the 162-acre Sonoma Valley Regional Park is usually bursting at the seams with wildflowers. The beginning part of the walk is on a paved, ADA-accessible path, which makes it perfect for anyone using a wheelchair. Others can continue on the dirt trail. The hike leaves from the parking lot. If you have a dog, you’ll be pleased to learn that a one-acre fenced-off portion of the park is the Elizabeth Perrone Dog Park. The parks department provides an online pdf map of Sonoma Valley Regional Park (13630 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen, 707-823-7262).

Sonoma Coast State Park (17 miles long, from Bodega Head to 4 miles north of Jenner): Two excellent trails—Kortum and Pomo Canyon—begin at Shell Beach, located at about the park’s coastal midway point. Kortum Trail proceeds straight along cliff tops to Goat Rock, a beloved local landmark with a wonderful beach for tide-pooling. It’s a relatively easy hike, about 5 miles round trip. Pomo Canyon Trail leaves Shell Beach and heads east, crossing Highway 1 and then traveling upward into a redwood forest with a waterfall. This is a moderate hike, approximately 7 miles round trip.

Crane Creek Regional Park (Rohnert Park): With its broad grassy meadows and bubbling seasonal creek, the 128-acre park — which offers 3.5 miles of trails — is a great place to enjoy spring wildflowers; it’s particularly known for its brilliant display of cheery orange poppies, the official California state flower. Picnic tables are located throughout the park, and there’s also an 18-hole disc golf course. (5000 Pressley Road, Rohnert Park, 707-565-2041)

Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve (Santa Rosa): Offering stunning views of the Santa Rosa Plain, this 1,100-acre site has four miles of trails along two routes — and it’s renowned for spring wildflower displays. FYI – you can bring your dog along, too!

Foothill Regional Park (Windsor): Home to 6.8 miles of tree-shaded trails and three small fishing lakes, 211-acres Foothill hosts a diverse variety of wildflowers in early spring, including large amounts of the beautiful blue sky lupine, as well as poppies, sun cups, blue dicks, shooting stars, and other spring blooms.

Helen Putnam Regional Park (Petaluma): Fabulous views, sweeping meadows sprinkled with wildflowers, a gazebo, a children’s play area, and a large fishing pond … what could be better? The parks department provides an online pdf map of Helen Putnam Regional Park (411 Chileno Valley Road, 707-433-1625)

Riverfront Regional Park, Healdsburg: This is an easy hike with lots of wildflowers, so it’s great for small kids and slow walkers. Bring lunch (the park has a great picnic area with barbecue grills, volleyball court, horseshoe pit), and be sure to check out the two small lakes, where bass fishing is permissible. This 216-acre park is next to the Russian River. The parks department provides an online pdf map of Riverfront Regional Park(7821 Eastside Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-1625).

Steelhead Beach Regional Park, Forestville: The intact ecosystem here, running beside the Russian River, offers the chance to see unique riparian plants and river wildlife. Bring lunch, as the park contains a picnic area with barbecue grills. The parks department provides an online pdf map of Steelhead Beach Regional Park (9000 River Road, Forestville, 707-433-1625).

You can also download a map that shows all Sonoma County Regional Parks. And for more options, consider the many state parks in Sonoma County.

Landpaths will be offering Wildflowers of Healdsburg at Fitch Mountain Preserve on April 5, 2017.  Participants will join wildflower enthusiast Kate Symonds for a walk through the woods of Fitch Mountain to enjoy the arrival of Spring wildlowers. Click here for more information.

Pepperwood Preserve will also host a FREE wildflower walk on Friday, April 21, 2017. Pepperwood staff and expert volunteers will guide you through vibrant meadows, pointing out what is blooming and sharing amazing botanical details. Participants can stay and enjoy a picnic lunch adjacent to the gorgeous meadows.  These educational walks will be up to 1 mile at a slow pace, stopping frequently to point out wildflower species. For more information, visit Pepperwood.

Thank you to Sonoma Ecology Center, Sonoma County Regional Parks for sharing these top spots. The Sonoma County Regional Parks offers guided wildflower walks in April and May. The hikes are free, but require a nominal parking fee of $7 (or free with a Regional Parks membership). All parks in the Regional Parks system have hiking trails, so the wildflower display is on view now through May(ish). Specific dates and times for hikes are available on the Sonoma County Regional Parks calendar.

We’ll see you outside!

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